North Korea revises economic management laws

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No.09-12-21-1

The Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS) announced on December 16 that the North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly Standing Committee has revised the North’s Real Estate Management Law, the Commodities Consumption Level Law, the General Equipment Import Law, and other laws related to economic management. This on the heels of the November 30th announcement, when authorities announced across-the-board currency reform measures, apparently in an attempt to regain control of the country’s market economy.

The KCBS reported that the Real Estate Management Law “regulates fundamental issues of real estate registration and inspection, use, and payment of user fees,” but offered no further details.

Since 2006, North Korean authorities established new offices in each city, county, and region throughout the country. These offices were responsible for surveying property, occupied and vacant, claimed by organizations and businesses, as well as recording the size of each structure on these lands.

In the mid-1990s, with the onset of serious food shortages, food rations to workers were halted and North Korean authorities from every branch and level (including the military, railway, business enterprises) were encouraged to distribute foodstuffs in ways more beneficial to themselves. These authorities planned to resolve food distribution issues through agricultural moves.

The new Real Estate Management Law appears to be aimed at labeling land used for private purposes as strategic nationalized land and strengthening the state’s ability to collect real estate taxes. However, the broadcaster failed to explain in detail how this restructuring would occur.

By enacting the Commodities Consumption Level Law, North Korean authorities can control the basis at which goods are injected into each production sector. This appears to be in preparation for taking cost-reduction measures for enterprises related to production in each region. The broadcaster explained that there were legal demands for the enactment and enforcement of regulations on the level of consumption.

The General Equipment Import Law newly regulates import plans, contracts, and the use of goods by factories, schools, hospitals, ships and broadcasters in an effort to control quality. In each sector, the measure prevents double-investment and controls consumption competition.

As these economic control measures are focused on factories and other bases of production along with importers, it appears that, in conjunction with the recent currency reform, North Korean authorities are attempting to control production quality on all levels. For example, as the North is suffering ongoing supply difficulties due to a lack of materials, the law on consumption levels is an attempt to restrict goods by forcefully managing demand. The law on imports appears to be in an effort to regulate general-use goods in light of the increased reliance on foreign equipment.


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